On this page is a collection of some of the many excellent quotes from Bruce Lee. They are organised into the following categories:
Simplicity | Art | Zen | Technique and training | Competition | Jeet Kune Do (JKD)
When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow - you are not understanding yourself.
Truth has no path. Truth is living and, therefore, changing. Awareness is without choice, without demand, without anxiety; in that state of mind, there is perception. To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person. Awareness has no frontier; it is giving of your whole being, without exclusion.
The tools are at an undifferentiated center of a circle that has no circumference, moving and yet not moving, in tension and yet relaxed, seeing everything happening and yet not at all anxious about its outcome, with nothing purposely designed, nothing consciously calculated, no anticipation, no expectation - in short, standing innocently like a baby and yet, with all the cunning, subterfuge and keen intelligence of a fully mature mind.
The aim of art is to project an inner vision into the world, to state in aesthetic creation the deepest psychic and personal experiences of a human being. It is to enable those experiences to be intelligible and generally recognized within the total framework of an ideal world.
Art is an expression of life and transcends both time and space. We must employ our own souls through art to give a new form and a new meaning to nature or the world. "Artless art" is the artistic process within the artist; its meaning is "art of the soul".
Art reaches its greatest peak when devoid of self-consciousness. Freedom discovers man the moment he loses concern over what impression he is making or about to make.
Art reveals itself in psychic understanding of the inner essence of things and gives form to the relation of man with nothing, with the nature of the absolute.
An artist's expression is his soul made apparent, his schooling, as well as his "cool" being exhibited. Behind every motion, the music of his soul is made visible. Otherwise, his motion is empty and empty motion is like an empty word; no meaning.
Art is never decoration or embellishment; instead, it is work of enlightenment. Art, in other words, is a technique for acquiring liberty.
Art calls for complete mastery of techniques, developed by reflection within the soul.
The artless art is the art of the soul at peace, like moonlight mirrored in a deep lake. The ultimate aim of the artist is to use his daily activity to become a past master of life, and so lay hold of the art of living. Masters in all branches of art must first be masters of living, for the soul creates everything.
Art is the way to the absolute and to the essence of human life. The aim of art is not the one-sided promotion of spirit, soul and senses, but the opening of all human capacities - thought, feeling, will - to the life rhythm of the world of nature. So will the voiceless voice be heard and the self be brought into harmony with it.
Artistic skill, therefore, does not mean artistic perfection. It remains rather a continuing medium or reflection of some step in psychic development, the perfection of which is not to be found in shape and form, but must radiate from the human soul.
The artistic activity does not lie in art itself as such. It penetrates into a deeper world in which all art forms (of things inwardly experienced) flow together, and in which the harmony of soul and cosmos in the nothing has its outcome in reality.
It is the artistic process, therefore, that is reality and reality is truth.
I'm moving and not moving at all. I'm like the moon underneath the waves that ever go on rolling and rocking. It is not, "I am doing this," but rather, an inner realization that "this is happening through me," or "it is doing this for me." The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.
If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like and echo.
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.
Turn into a doll made of wood: it has no ego, it thinks nothing, it is not grasping or sticky. Let the body and limbs work theselves out in accordance with the discipline they have undergone.
The localization of the mind means its freezing. When it ceases to flow freely as it is needed, it is no more the mind in its suchness.
The perfect way is only difficult for those who pick and choose. Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear. Make a hairbreadth difference and heaven and earth are set apart; if you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease.
Give up thinking as though not giving it up. Observe techniques as though not observing.
Eliminate "not clear" thinking and function from your root.
To obtain enlightenment in martial art means the extinction of everything which obscures the "true knowledge," the "real life". At the same time, it implies boundless expansion and, indeed, emphasis should fall not on the cultivation of the particular department which merges into the totality, but rather on the totality that enters and unites that particular department.
The way to transcend karma lies in the proper use of the mind and the will. The one-ness of all life is a truth that can be fully realized only when false notions of a separate self, whose destiny can be considered apart from the whole, are forever annihilated.
Voidness is that which stands right in the middle between this and that. The void is all-inclusive, having no opposite - there is nothing which it excludes or opposes. It is living void, because all forms come out of it and whoever realizes the void is filled with life and power and the love of all being.
Nothingness cannot be defined; the softest thing cannot be snapped.
The "Immovable" is the concentration of energy at a given focus, as at the axis of a wheel, instead of dispersal in scattered activities.
The point is doing of them rather than the accomplishments. There is no actor but the action; there is no experiencer but the experience.
To see a thing uncoloured by one's own personal preferences and desires is to see it in its own pristine simplicity.
Wisdom does not consist of trying to wrest the good from the evil but in learning to "ride" them as a cork adapts itself to the crests and troughs of the waves.
An assertion is Zen only when it is itself an act and does not refer to anything that is asserted in it.
In Buddhism, there is no place for using effort. Just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water and when you're tired go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand.
Establish nothing in regard to onself. Pass quickly like the non-existent and be quiet as purity.
Those who gain, lose. Do not precede others, always follow them.
Do not run away; let go. Do not seek, for it will come when least expected.
All vague notions must fall before a pupil can call himself a master.
After all, all knowledge simply means self-knowledge.
The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action. There is no fixed teaching. All I can provide is an appropriate medicine for a particular ailment.
Technique and training
It's not daily increase but decrease - hack away the unessential!
One of the most neglected elements of martial arts is the physical workout. Too much time is spent in developing skill in techniques and not enough in physical participation.
No fighter uses his leg violently until he warms it up carefully. The same principle is equally applicable to any muscles that are to be used vigorously.
Springiness and alertness of footwork is the key theme. The rear heel is raised and cocked, ever ready to pull the trigger into action. You are never set or tensed, but are ready and flexible.
The primary purpose of Jeet Kune Do is kicking, hitting, and applying bodily force. Therefore, the use of the on-guard position is to obtain the most favorable position.
Relaxation is essential for faster and more powerful punching. Let your lead punch shoot out loosely and easily; do not tighten up or clench your fist until the moment of impact. All punches should end with a snap several inches behind the target. Thus, you punch through the opponent instead of at him.
Hitting does not mean pushing. True hitting can be likened to the snap of a whip - all the energy is slowly concentrated and then suddenly released with a tremendous out-pouring of power.
To hit or kick effectively, it is necessary to shift weight constantly from one leg to the other. This means perfect control of body balance. Balance is the most important consideration in the on-guard position.
Please do not be concerned with soft versus firm, kicking versus striking, grappling versus hitting and kicking, long-range fighting versus in-fighting. There is no such thing as "this" is better than "that". Should there be one thing we must guard against, let it be partiality that robs us of our pristine wholeness and make us lose unity in the midst of duality.
There are styles that favour straight lines, then there are styles that favour curved lines and circles. Styles that cling to one partial aspect of combat are in bondage. Jeet Kune Do is a technique for acquiring liberty; it is a work of enlightenment.
Naturalness means easily and comfortably, so all muscles can act with the greatest speed and ease. Stand loosely and lightly, avoid tension and muscular contraction. Thus, you will both guard and hit with more speed, precision and power.
The well-coordinated fighter does everything smoothly and gracefully. He seems to glide in and out of distance with minimum of effort and a maximum of deception.
A powerful athlete is not a strong athlete, but one who can exert his strength quickly. Since power equals force times speed, if the athlete learns to make faster movements he increases his power, even though the contractile pulling strength of his muscles remains unchanged. Thus, a smaller man who can swing faster may hit as hard or as far as the heavier man who swings slowly.
The athlete who is building muscles though weight training should be very sure to work adequately on speed and flexibility at the same time. In combat, without the prior attributes, a strong man will be like the bull with its colossal strength futilely pursuing the matador or like a low-geared truck chasing a rabbit.
Endurance is lost rapidly if one ceases to work at its maximum.
Too wide a stance prevents proper alignment, destroying the purpose of balance but obtaining solidarity and power at the cost of speed and efficient movement. A short stance prevents balance as it does not give a basis from which to work. Speed results but at a loss of power and balance.
It is not wise at all to attack without first having gained control of the opponent's movement time or hand position. Thus, a smart fighter uses every means at his disposal, patiently and systematically, to draw the stop-hit. It brings the adversary's hand or leg within his reach and gives him the opportunity to gain control of it.
When, in a split second, your life is threatened, do you say, "let me make sure my hand is on my hip, and my style is 'the' style?" When your life is in danger, do you argue about the method you will adhere to while saving yourself? Why the duality?
Why do individuals depend on thousands of years of propaganda? They may preach "softness" as the ideal to "firmness", but when "what is hits", what happens? Ideals, principles, the "what should be" leads to hypocrisy.
Keep blasting, pushing, and flowing.
It requires a controlled cruelty.
Do not be tense, just be ready, not thinking but not dreaming, not being set but
being flexible. It is being "wholly" and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.
The knowledge and skills you have achieved are meant to be forgotten so you can float comfortably in emptiness, without obstruction.
The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take it's course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.
Let him smash your flesh, and you fracture his bone. Let him fracture your bone, and you take his life. Lay your life before him.
Jeet Kune Do
Jeet Kune Do is not to hurt, but is one of the avenues through to which life opens it's secrets to us.
Jeet Kune Do does not beat around the bush. It does not take winding detours. It follows a straight line to the objective. Simplicity is the shortest distance between two points.
The art of Jeet Kune Do is simply to simplify. Jeet Kune Do avoids the superficial, penetrates the complex, goes to the heart of the problem and pinpoints the key factors. Empty your cup that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.
Jeet Kune Do favors formlessness so that it can can assume all forms and since Jeet Kune Do has no style, it can fit in with all the styles.
Jeet Kune Do uses all ways and is bound by none and, likewise, uses any technique or means which serves its end. In this art, efficiency is anything that scores.
A Jeet Kune Do man faces reality and not crystallization of form. The tool is a tool of formless form. Self-expression is total, immediate, without conception of time, and you can only express that if you are free, physically and mentally, from fragmentation.
The Jeet Kune Do man should be on the alert to meet the interchangeability of opposites. As soon as his mind "stops" with either of them, it loses its own fluidity. A Jeet Kune Do man should keep his mind always in the state of emptiness so that his freedom in action will never be obstructed.
The fancy mess solidifies and conditions that which was once fluid, and when you look at it realistically, it is nothing but blind devotion to the systematic uselessness of practicing routines or stunts that lead nowhere.
The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what truth is, has no style at all. He lives only in what is.
If you want to understand the truth in martial arts, to see any opponent clearly, you must throw away the notion of styles or schools, prejudices, likes and dislikes, and so forth. Then, your mind will cease all conflict and come to rest. In this silence, you will see totally and freshly.
If any style teaches you a method of fighting, then you might be able to fight according to the limit of that method, but that is not fighting.
If you follow the classical patterns, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow - you are not understanding yourself.
To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.
Jeet Kune Do, ultimately, is not a matter of petty technique but of highly developed personal spirituality and physique. It is not a question of developing what has already been developed but of recovering what has been left behind. These things have been with us, in us, all the time and have never been lost or distorted except by our misguided manipulation of them. Jeet Kune Do is not a matter of technology but of spiritual insight and training.